Brixham rescue crews refuse to give up hope
FISHERMEN and rescue services refused to give up in a massive two day search for missing skipper Geoff Ingram.
Despite initial fears that the skipper may have gone down with the boat, almost every boat in Brixham joined a co-ordinated grid search across an eight square mile area.
At one stage there were 25 vessels searching off Berry Head.
Coastguards received a distress call from the Teignmouth-registered trawler The Girl Rona as she picked up two of the three crewmen from the sea.
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The Sarah Jayne, a Brixham-registered 15-metre long trawler, was believed to be out spratting.
A coastguard spokesman confirmed: “We understand that it all happened very fast and the skipper may not have had time to get out of the boat and he went down with it when it sank.
“A massive search followed which covered eight square miles of sea six miles east off Berry Head and involved local fishing boats, one Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel, a watchdog aircraft and the Portland-based Coastguard helicopter and the two all-weather lifeboats from Brixham and Exmouth.”
The coastguard spokesman said: “The search went on until about 8pm on Tuesday when it was decided in consultation with all parties involved to call it off because of failing visibility. Considering they were searching for one man, it was a massive area covered and a very large search.”
The two RNLI lifeboats were out again in a search which was still ongoing on Wednesday morning. It was thought police divers would also be deployed to search the wreck of the Sarah Jayne.
Stuart Elliman, RNLI operations manager at Brixham, said: “We were called by coastguard to respond to a report of a vessel that sank. The call came in at 11.24am. Our lifeboat and the lifeboat from Exmouth responded and were launched at 11.32am.”
“There was a co-ordinated search with a large number of other vessels still going on. Two aircraft were also used from the MCA —the helicopter from Portland and a fixed wing search plane called Watchdog.
“The sinking site was roughly six nautical miles east of Berry Head. There were six crewmen on the Exmouth RNLI lifeboat and seven on the Brixham one, which is one more than normal.
“They were effectively looking for a target the size of a football, which is why an extra pair of eyes makes the job even more effective.”
Among the fishermen joining the search were four of the five survivors of the previous week’s sinking of the Brixham beam trawler Chloe T.
The four — Anthony Cheasty, Rod Antwhistle, Steve Mundle and Keith Hamilton — were on their first trip back to sea when they heard that the Sarah Jayne had sunk and joined the many boats looking for her missing skipper.
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Wave Knight headed towards the distress area which was 12 miles away.
The two crew which had been rescued by The Girl Rona were transferred to the Wave Knight where they were treated by the ship’s medic before being transferred by the Portland Coastguard helicopter to Torbay Hospital.
Wave Knight then returned to the scene to assist in the ongoing search.
Capt Jim Portus, chief executive of South West Fish Producers based in Brixham, said: “When lives and boats are lost at sea the Fishermen’s Mission provides immediate support for the families from their action for disaster appeal.
“It’s fantastic to see people donate money to help the family of this missing fisherman. I hope more people will do so. It is heart warming to see how people respond to tragedy especially in a close-knit community like Brixham.
“There will always be a need for financial help, but the family which is affected by this tragedy needs compassion and support.
“I’m sure the wife of this missing fisherman will be surrounded by the whole community in Exmouth.
“The skipper always fished out of Brixham every winter, so he is well know here.
“I’m not surprise to hear that a boat and its crew donated their catch to help the family. It is what fishing communities do.”
A spokesman for the Marine Accident Investigation Branch said: “We have sent a team of inspectors to the site to start an investigation to find out what caused the accident. They were dispatched on Tuesday and will be looking at all aspects of the incident, speaking to anybody involved, any witnesses or anyone who has an interest. The purpose is to learn any safety lessons to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”